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					WORK AS A PARALEGAL

Paralegal work has grown in recent years, largely because it reduces practice costs. Some
firms now employ ‘career paralegals’ on a permanent basis and in a particular field of
legal practice, working alongside or even in place of solicitors. For examples of job
advertisements, visit the legal job sites aimed at paralegals. It is regarded as a distinct
professional group and salaries have risen.

However, most law students seek temporary paralegal work in order to gain legal
experience before embarking on the LPC or a training contract.

The Work of the Temporary Paralegal

Paralegals are most commonly employed in commercial firms with openings heavily
concentrated in property and litigation departments. Duties vary widely. In some firms,
paralegals undertake the full range of trainee tasks; in others, high volume routine legal
tasks – for example, insurance, conveyancing and personal injury.

Firms may also recruit paralegals to undertake specific tasks within a single contract. A
recent example of the latter was a paralegal employed in a corporate department for the
sole task of proof reading all the legal documentation being prepared for a multi million
pound contract closure.

Typical tasks might include: -

      Legal research – checking files, gathering together appropriate documentation
                              NB. Internet skills are becoming increasingly important.
      Drafting letters and documents
      Preparation of briefing notes
      Filing
      Document Management – bundling, scheduling, indexing, pagination, scanning,
       photocopying. A very high degree of accuracy and attention to detail is required.
       Hundreds of files may be involved. A typical trial bundle may run to 25 volumes.
      Proof reading
      Attending client meetings
      Attending completion meetings
      Note-taking in court
      Taking statements
      Instructing counsel
      Making court applications
      Pleadings
      Billing
      Database entry and management.




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Qualifications and Qualities Sought

Most firms will look for a minimum of a law degree or CPE/PGDL. Many will prefer the
LPC and, increasingly, the BVC. Many look for a 2:1 and a few stress the importance of
a strong academic background.

In some cases, previous paralegal experience, or other office/administrative experience is
preferred, and IT experience is considered a valuable asset.

Desirable personal qualities are: -

-      Willing to do anything and everything required by the partners in order to
       progress the case.
-      Willing to travel to clients
-      Able to work unsupervised
-      Able to prioritise own work, often under pressure
-      Able to get tasks organised at the last minute
-      Willing to work flexible hours at times in order to meet deadlines. (Long hours
       are a frequent feature in corporate and commercial departments).
-      Accuracy
-      Good communication skills

Training for Paralegals

The Law Society and ILEX are developing National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)
for paralegal staff in employment (see www.ilexpt.co.uk)

Some firms have developed in-house training modules specifically for their paralegals;
others encourage paralegals to attend in-house courses provided for trainees.

Finally, some private colleges offer courses related to paralegal work. As with any
course, it is important to check out the details of the syllabus, the college’s teaching
resources and its links to/standing within the legal profession before deciding to enrol.


Paralegals and Training Contracts.

Many firms, but by no means all, will consider their paralegals for training contracts as
they arise. Those with paralegal experience should also find the experience a
considerable advantage when applying for training contracts with other organisations.

The experience may also count as good experience towards a training contract. Since July
2000, when the Law Society regulations were revised, any reduction in the length of a
training contract is entirely at the discretion of the employer and the maximum reduction
permitted varies:




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   a) For those who pass the LPC and then complete at least 12 months paralegal work,
      a maximum of 6 months is allowed.
   b) For those who complete at least 12 months paralegal work and then proceed to the
      LPC course, a maximum of 3 months is allowed.

In all such instances, application must be made using the Law Society’s TTC form. A
copy can be viewed at www.solicitors-online.com Further information can be obtained
from the Law Society’s Education and Training Department based at Redditch tel 0870
606 2555.


Applying for Vacancies

Vacancies usually arise on an ad hoc basis, with only a few firms having a regular
requirement for new staff. The vast majority do not advertise vacancies, mainly due to the
large number of speculative enquiries received. In addition, some firms require staff at
very short notice and so do not have time to advertise – they employ a core of permanent
paralegals, and then recruit temporary help as and when workloads demand. As a result,
it is advisable to indicate in a speculative application the dates when you are available for
work .

Firms who advertise do so via:

      Law Society Gazette
      University law schools/University Careers Services
      Recruitment agencies
      Company websites

Very few use newspapers.

In a survey conducted by London Guildhall University Careers Service in 2001, a few
firms indicated that vacancies were more likely to arise in summer or early autumn,
presumably as some staff will move on to further study/professional training at this time
of year.

As regards selection, this tends to be by interview - sometimes one, and occasionally two.
A small minority of firms make use of tests.




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Applying in Manchester

Many of the city’s company commercial firms have occasional vacancies. A new service
for recent graduates is being offered at www.ProfessionalCareersNW.co.uk. A
speculative approach may also prove positive. Contact details can be found on
www.solicitors-online.com.

In addition, some high street practices occasionally recruit a legal clerk with a view to the
person becoming a trainee at a later stage. Such vacancies are usually sent direct to the
School of Law or advertised in the Law Society Gazette.

Local authorities, private companies (particularly the regional offices of banks and
insurance companies), and the Crown Prosecution Service have the occasional openings
for paralegals – more commonly known as legal assistants in public practice.

It may also be worth approaching legal recruitment agencies based in central Manchester
to see if they may be able to help with your job search, although having previous relevant
work experience may be a significant factor in successfully obtaining employment
through them.


Applying in London/Nationally

Far more opportunities arise in London and one obvious source for addresses for
speculative applications is Guildhall’s ‘Survey of Paralegal Opportunities in London Law
Firms’. The following organisations are known to provide specialist help in the
placement of paralegals and legal clerks. Occasionally, they may have opportunities in
other parts of the country.

Law Society Careers and Recruitment Service -         113 Chancery Lane,
                                                      London WC2A 1PL: -
                                                      Tel: 020 7320 5880
                                                      www.recruitment.lawsociety.org.uk


Legal Executive Recruitment                   -       ILEX, Kempston Manor, Kempston,
                                                      Bedfordshire MK42 7AB
                                                      Tel 01234 845721
                                                      www.legal-executive-recruitment.com

Prolaw                                        -       87 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1BD
                                                      Tel: 020 7242 6633
                                                      www.prolaw.co.uk

Paralegalnet                                  -       49 Islip Road, Oxford, OX2 7SP
                                                      www.paralegalnet.co.uk



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Legal Practice Clerks                      -      184 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2DU
                                                  Tel: 020 7404 7579
                                                  www.lpc-law.co.uk

Premier Legal Support Services             -      Personnel Department, Liberty House,
                                                  222 Regent Street, London W1B 5TR
                                                  Tel: 0870 770 2525
                                           -      www.premierlegal.co.uk

Chambers Professional Recruitment          -      Saville House, 23 Long Lane, London EC1A 9HL
                                                  Tel: 020 7606 8844
                                                  www.chambersrecruitment.co.uk

Jobs In Law                               -       Regent House, 2 Portland Street, Royal
                                                  Leamington Spa, Warwicksire CV32 5HE
                                                  Tel: 01926 886363
                                                  www.jobsin.co.uk/law

Totally Legal                              -      www.totallylegal.com


Jan Moore
August 2003


References:

   (1) ‘Survey of Paralegal Opportunities in London Law Firms, 2001’ ed. Alison Street,
       pub. London Guildhall University Careers Centre, Calcutta House, Precinct, Old Castle
       Street, London E1 7NT Tel: 020 7320 2380




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